Friday, April 24, 2015

Ballplay Falls

Fire pinks along the road to the trail head for Ballplay Falls 

Ballplay Falls 

Dana Koogler

Thurs. April 16, 2015
and Return Visit Thurs. April 23, 2015

Total hike distance 3 miles approx. today.
**This blog will give clear directions at the end for
how to reach Ballplay Falls. It does not divulge the locations
of all the wildflowers. Not all the wildflowers pictured
were found on the Ballplay Falls hike. **
Pictures are here:
Ballplay Falls Pix

     I started off to go do two hikes Thursday April 16, 2015.  I hiked to Jeffrey Hell and it began
raining on me rather hard.  I decided to eat lunch and head back toward Ballplay and hike to the falls. I was hoping going in that direction and a little time passing the sun would come back out.
I figured I'd just finish up the rest of my day elsewhere.   I got there and when I arrived the sun was out and I was so tickled.  I was taking pictures still at the trail head and the rain began again.
I was cold and tired and what I wanted was not happening.  What I wanted was a pretty day to visit this spot and enjoy it.   I decided I'd try again next Thursday.

Next Thursday April 23, 2015

   A week rolled around and the pretty day dawned that I had prayed for and longed for.  
I went to fulfill a couple things on my wish list.  I had wanted to check out a spot down along the Hiwassee River where a friend told me I could view Bent Trillium in bloom for the first time.
I found lots of it in bud when I was in Georgia.  I was not going to have the time to go back to 
Georgia this Spring.   I would have found it already finished blooming had I gone there.
I know it sounds silly to some people, but when I have a wish for something like that I pray
and ask God to help me get the chance if it is part of His plan.   I had to do some searching, but
I found the trilliums and while they were past peak bloom.. they were still pretty and I was thrilled
to see them.  Trillium flexipes is a pure white variety.  Very beautiful.

Trillium flexipes is the binomial for this flower.  It is also called Bent trillium or Jennison's White trillium.  It is erect like white wake robin with its bloom up on a stalk.  The ovary and stamens are
all white.   This is the 2nd different trillium I've seen this Spring.  The other being Trailing trillium
which is down on the ground!

  I will NOT divulge the directions for this location. It was shared with me by someone else and 
if I go blabbing everything I know .. no one will want to help me anymore.  I will share some things
with some people, but I will NEVER become part of the hive mind and tell all that I know. I will
ask folks sometimes to assist me when I have had difficulty locating something I've never seen.
Just because a person has shared one of their secrets with me I do NOT expect them to tell me
all they know either.   It would not be fair of me to expect it.  It would also not be very much fun
for me to always have everything handed to me.   I have seen areas where good wildflowers are located become well known and the flowers trampled out of existence.  


 Rock ledges covered in stonecrop. 

Stonecrop close up. Very lacy. 

Above are some of the photos from the Hiwassee area.  

Dicentra eximia--wild bleeding hearts above.

The start of my bluebird day along the banks of the Hiwassee looking at the sides of Starr Mountain.


              Once I had satisfied my soul with what was around the Hiwassee I ate an early lunch looking at the river and headed on up toward Tellico Plains to hike to Ballplay Falls.

 Two Off Trail Dumb Asses Bushwack to Ballplay Falls!
The Back Story

             I will  tell you the back story on how I first came to learn of Ballplay Falls and my first visit.
I should not tell it on myself because it is so silly, but it will demonstrate both my foolishness and dogged 
determination.    I learned of Ballplay Falls from the internet.  Waterfalls of Monroe County
Once I saw the photo of it on that link.. that was all she wrote.  I was going to see it.  I tried once with Kenny to find it.  We got in the general vicinity, but people filled our heads up with wild stories about the old Buck Highway and we'd get ourselves shot messing around out there.  I now know for a fact that SOME of that stuff is true having cared for people who've gotten shot or beaten out in those parts. I also know for a fact that some of those stories were intended to scare us off and keep us from finding good things.  The person who did the most of the telling turned out to be a treacherous bitch. 

             I was friends with Bill Stowell and he was also interested in finding it.   We decided we'd go 
hunt it with the waypoints off Tennessee landforms.  Bill had a real good GPS and knew how to use it.
I had one, but it was a sorry one and I lacked skill in using it.  I remember it was cold when we went.
I want to say it was late February or early March.  We found the beginning point at the trail.   We did 
see Ballplay Creek.  We saw a path going up the creek by it.  We followed it.  The first trail played out.
We jumped onto a rough old road one notch up from the first one. Eventually that played out too.
We were damn well going to find that falls so we just got in the creek and started rock hopping.
We went from side to side of the creek, forded back and forth.  After hours of floundering, struggling, 
bushwhacking, and having a worms eye view of the world... we rounded a bend in the creek.
The GPS indicated we were getting close. The terrain was changing and went from being flat... to looking like a place a waterfall might actually be found. Part of what intrigued me about Ballplay Falls was the fact it occurs in an area that you'd never expect to find a waterfall!  Ballplay gets its name from the fact it is mainly flat and the Cherokee played their ballgames there on that lovely flat ground.   Part of the intrigue was 
how out of the way and little known it was.   Part of the sell for me is the hunt.  Bill and I were having a grand hunt for sure, but we were also suffering to get there.   Finally we found it.  We were elated!

              The rest of the story jumps forward to several years later with me being in the Tellico Plains visitor center.   I was talking to an older lady who works there. I was talking to her about the area waterfalls. I asked her if she had ever been to or heard of Ballplay Falls? She said yes!  I told her about how rough that trip was and how hard it was to find.  The look on her face let me know I'd made a SERIOUS mistake!
I hung my head before her. I then looked up and said "There is a trail to it, isn't there?" She nodded
yes.  She then went on to tell me that you go behind the old house and pick up a good trail there
that will take you right to the falls.   I was embarrassed, but relieved to know the truth.  We went
and re-visited Ballplay Falls that day.  Kenny and I went and found the trail and walked right to it
without the first problem.  One of the worst cases ever for me of making something way harder than it had to be.   It is funny now though.  I'm the kind of woman if I want a mountain moved I'll do it .. If I have to do it a teaspoon at a time.  

 Today's Visit to Ballplay Falls ON the Trail 

  Now I'm an older, fatter,slightly smarter woman.  I still mess up bad sometimes, but wouldn't life
being boring if things were always perfect?!   Today I needed a perfect day and so far it was going swell.
I was not scared of the Buck Highway legends that had been told. I was not going to mess up and do dumb stuff.  I was just going to have fun and see pretty things.    I arrived at the trail head with no problem.
I enjoyed the view and the wildflower display on the drive there!  The old houses and buildings are neat 
to see on the drive there.  My favorite old house ever is located where you park.

 Old house you will see at the start of the Ballplay Falls hike.  I come from people who lived
like this so this sort of place will always be special to me.   It is break your heart beautiful here.

If you don't have a four wheel drive vehicle you will want to pull over and park before you get to this.
There is a bridge that is very narrow and muddy. Park and walk if you think you'll get stuck.
 My jeep parked by the old barn.  Tires are muddy, but that's what its meant to do.

   Be careful when you pull up here.  There is an old logging road directly in front of where I parked.  Don't try to get on that immediately to start your hike.   I went up past the house on the right and found the first place that you can turn right.  THAT is the start of the hike along the old trail.   It was good in places and rough in others.  I made myself really take stock of this hike. 
You've got to remember since I've shared how I first arrived at Ballplay Falls off trail that ANY trail to me seems great!   I am a rough dog so I often tell people its good when they might not
agree with me.  If you don't like vegetation touching you. If you don't like crawling over and under trees... if you are accustomed to very groomed trails like in the Smoky Mountains National Park or state parks you will probably not care for this hike.   The trail is an unofficial one and I don't 
think it is maintained.   It is getting visited a little more now so that helps keep it open.

Here the trail starts.. The old grassy path goes straight along the creek behind the house, but you can see here the turn to the right to start up on the path to the falls.  It starts off good.

The hike stays pretty good most of the way, but you'll have some spot you'll go through briars and stuff that looks like this.  Not too many.  But don't go if you're a pussy!  

Downed trees.. two side by side along the path. 

You have to negotiate two side by side .  

Gives you a small taste of my worm's eye view for just a few minutes.

But then the path is good again and wanders through piney woods. It smells good. 
Parts of the hike are through lush, green plants. Parts are through pine forest.

First place you had to watch.  The path bends sharply right here.  There is an old animal path or something heading down and left here.  That is a dead end. Stay to the right. I marked this spot
with a small cairn.  


Next important turn pictured above.  The path splits. Go left and down here. The one to the right
is in bad shape and is not traveled.   It goes away from the creek. You may be able to hear
the falls at this spot if the water is flowing pretty good.  I marked this intersection with 
an arrow pointing down the left path.  

    You'll stay on the path down and left that is still high above the creek.  It will bring you out
at the top of the falls eventually.  It is a relatively short  hike.    You'll come out at Ballplay Creek.
 This is where the path meets Ballplay Creek just above the falls. Bear left here.  If you watch for where folks are going you can find a very rough path that will lead you to the base of the falls.
The falls is about forty five feet high and has two drops.  I am going to try to clear a way to a
vantage point of the upper falls when I am there and NOT alone.

Above the leaf and bloom of Shuttleworth's Ginger. It is in the birthwort family of plants.
It likes piney woods.  Its binomial is Hexastylis shuttleworthii

I love a path through a pine forest.

Cateby's trillium blooms profusely just before the top of the falls.

I followed the path down to the base of the falls. It was prettier than ever.
More water coming over the falls today than I had ever seen on it!

Bottom portion of Ballplay Falls.  

Beautiful blue skies above me today!

This is the very bottom part of the path you have to take to reach
the base of the falls. It is unofficial.  It is not even a manway.  It is slick, but doable.
Don't do this hike if you get upset with such things.  It is not for pussies!

I am posting a video that shows Ballplay Creek and both the upper and lower drops
of the falls. It shows off the beauty of it better than a mere photo. Plus it is set to
music by John Cowan who is one of my all time favorites.  The mood of this 
really captures the tone of the day and the place for me. 

    I  loved being here today! I found it myself.  No help.  No worries. I was not scared.
It was lovely and perfect.  I did go off trail just a little bit to try to find the waterfall Paul Gamble told me about that is above Ballplay Falls. I found the creek and could see movement through the rhodo.
I was 100% alone and there is no trail to that one at all so I decided I'd play it smart and safe and go back
to hunt that one when I have Kenny with me.    It would be better to hit that one up when it is Winter. Snakes are awake. I did not see any today, but Mike Gourley reminded me I see an inordinate amount
of snakes.

               The wildflowers and greenery of Spring were amazing!  Partial views are along the path.

   I found tea berries growing here and ate some.  I remember hiking in the George Washington National Forest with my parents. They taught me what teaberry was and how good it is!

Tea berry grows red and round on a tiny shrub that grows UP.  It is tasty and safe to eat.

Partridge berries grow thick around where the tea berries were too.  They are flat to the ground, and egg shaped.  I don't know if they are poison, but I don't eat them.


Ballplay Creek. I walked way up it today just recalling that I had gone all the way up this pretty stream
to the falls. Wow!  While I don't want to do that again........ I saw things I would never have seen if I hadn't done it.   Those are good memories too.  Me laughing so hard at the mess we were in laying on a tiny shred of rock with the creek flowing past and looking at Bill's hind quarters.  I was wearing that darn pink coat of mine.

Old photo of me in the pink coat

Back of the old house.   I was back at my jeep. Tired and happy and ready to go home.

The wildflower display at Ballplay Falls is excellent. It begins on your drive there and continues all the way to the falls.

Large cluster of fire pinks along the bank on the way.

Trillium cuneatum is abundant here in maroon and brown.

Unusual form of dwarf crested iris. White with a tinge of purple!

Directions and Ratings for this Hike:

I rate it moderate based on the distance and the fact there IS a trail to it be it unofficial.

Here is a link to the Tennessee Landforms way point for Ballplay Falls. If you have a GPS and know how to use it I suggest taking it along.  Print out a copy of these directions also. This area
is on the Tellico-Ocoee Trails Illustrated Map so if you have a copy of that take it along. 
This hike is not in any guidebook that I am aware of. It is still little visited.

 Ballplay Falls Waypoint

From Tellico Plains Turn onto Hwy 165 the Cherohala Skyway.
Turn LEFT onto Route 360 and follow it out about 8.8 miles
Turn RIGHT onto Chestnut Valley Road.  (NOTE--Chestnut Valley Rd is long and makes a loop. You'll pass it once before you come to the proper turn)

Turn onto Williamsburg Rd and you will come to a three way split. Turn RIGHT and
follow it out to a dead end at the old house and trail head behind it.

Remember if you do not have 4WD to avoid crossing the bridge with your vehicle as it is sometimes very muddy.  Walk or drive across the bridge and go round to the back of the house on the RIGHT if you stand facing the house.

A short distance back there you will find a point where the wide grassy path continues along Ballplay Creek
but you want to turn RIGHT into the woods and follow the old logging road uphill.
Stay to the right at the first place the trail bends.

At the next intersection stay LEFT and down toward the sound of the creek.

This brings you out at Ballplay Creek and the top of the falls.

From here if you go left you can find a very rough path through the rhodo and trees down to the base of the falls.  It is rougher than what you've done so far.

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